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Fighting for our future

Pat Cullen 20 Jan 2023 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Pat Cullen thanks members for standing firm in the face of ongoing government inaction over pay.

After four days of strike action, I hope you feel as I do: determined; invigorated; optimistic and proud.

I had hoped that by this point government would have accepted the olive branch I continue to extend and sat down with me at the negotiating table to engage in meaningful discussions over your pay.

Disappointingly, we’re no nearer that point, as the Prime Minister continues to deflect from the real issues and deny the NHS the opportunity to receive the support it desperately needs.

If the UK government has offers to make, then I say to them, let’s get negotiations under way, right now. I repeat - this is the only way to begin to address the ongoing and longstanding issues around NHS pay.

After meeting hundreds of you as I travelled from the north west to the south coast of England this week, what stays with me is that you’re clear about having your voice heard; any offer from government must be a move towards recognising the value of nursing.

Yes, you deserve fair pay. Yes, you deserve to be equipped to rise to the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis with a reasonable and immediate pay increase. But above all, you must be recognised, valued and appreciated for the work you do to keep patients safe. That is what you care most about, and that’s why I will fight with every fibre I have to make sure I get the right deal for you.

Thank you once again for taking the difficult decision to strike. Again, in frozen temperatures and under dark skies, you stepped out into the cold to stand firm for what you believe in. We know that people aren’t dying because nurses are striking - nurses are striking because people are dying. That is how severe things are in the NHS and it is time the Prime Minister acknowledged the crisis and owned the solution.

When government turns its back on nurses, it turns its back on patients and the public. This government needs to urgently address the real crisis in the NHS regarding recruitment and retention through an immediate pay offer.

In Scotland, negotiations between the RCN and other health trade unions with the Scottish Government and NHS employers opened. Negotiation is the only way to solve disputes and the Scottish government’s willingness to talk means there is hope of securing a better offer for our members. But we have left the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care under no illusion that if meaningful progress is not made, or they show signs of dragging their feet and not keeping to the expedited timescale for completing the negotiations by the end of February, we will call strike action.

Our annual Congress will take place in Brighton from 14-18 May 2023. Whether you've attended before or you're a first-timer, now is the time to come together with other members at our annual event, RCN Congress. Conversations around nursing are shifting because of your efforts – your voice needs to continue to be heard on the issues that matter most.

There are just a few days left to nominate yourself for the vacant seats on RCN Council. The upcoming elections will give you the chance to decide who you want leading the organisation through this transformational period. Find out more here and be sure to submit your nomination before 23 January.

It takes great strength, fortitude, and character to continue speaking truth to power – but those are three things that nursing staff have in abundance.

Your courage and dedication never go unnoticed.

As your general secretary, I promise to always support you during the difficult times, and I look forward to celebrating our achievements together.
Pat Cullen

Pat Cullen

General Secretary and Chief Executive

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016. Before being appointed General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat was Director of RCN Northern Ireland from May 2019 to April 2021.

Page last updated - 20/06/2023